6 Tips for the Commuting Student

My first alarm goes off at 4 A.M., and I have 3 more after it, each 15 minutes apart. I get up, get dressed, and walk my dog before going to make breakfast. As I’m consuming it, I open my laptop to check my e-mails or print out the lecture notes I’ll need for the day. I’m out of my house by 6 to make sure that I’m not late for my 7:30 class.

In a city as large as Orlando, at a school as large as UCF, being a commuting student is fairly common among students. However, the price of being a commuting student is that you’re spending a lot of time in the car when you could be doing other things, such as sleeping, eating, or even studying. As someone who has been doing this for two years, I’m here to share my tips on how you can maximize your time as a commuting student.

1. Bring Everything You Need

Driving back and forth to get things is an unnecessary waste of time, but also the walk back and forth to get things from the car can take a lot of time, especially with a campus aslarge as UCF. Try to include everything you need for the day in your backpack so that you can use that time to settle in a space and study instead. Some of the things I always keep in my backpack are snacks and chargers. The snacks will tide me over until I have time for lunch or dinner, and keeping the chargers on me give me the ability to sit and write a paper without stressing that my laptop with die and erase everything.

That being said, carrying everything probably is not humanely possible unless you’re Supergirl, so I keep emergency items in the car. Some examples of emergency items would be feminine products for when it’s that time of month, an umbrella for when it rains, and extra cash for the days when you just forget your lunch. If you’re keeping important things in your car, make sure that they’re kept out of sight so no one tries to break in.

2. Utilize the Time Between Classes Wisely

The worst thing to do is to sit around and be unproductive. There are times that the mental break can wait for the car, especially when you have a two hour gap between classes. This is the time that you can eat, study, or use to socialize with friends so that you can get a full night of sleep.

Places I love to go between classes is the library, the union, or the Pop Parlour. All of these places let me eat, provide food and coffee options, have Wi-Fi so that I can work, and are also places that I can sit with friends. Plus, the Pop Parlour is not as crowded as the Starbucks on campus, and popsicles are great to enjoy before I have to walk in the Florida heat.

3. Be Involved

The thing about commuting is that it’s very easy to just stay in the comfort of your own room and not get out of bed to go to the first meeting of X Society because you want to binge watch Netflix instead. Don’t do that. You might miss out on something that could be really cool, or could’ve looked wonderful on a resume.

It’s easier if you tailor your schedule to accommodate the clubs you want to join, but this is not always possible. My tip for getting around this is to make yourself accountable, don’t make excuses, and if you can’t do that, find a friend to make you accountable.

4. Passive Learning is Not Allowed

Getting up super early means that it’s super easy to doze off in class or choose to skip class. Doing that actually creates more work for you later. How? You will have to utilize other time to re-teach yourself the material and if you can’t understand it, you’ll have to make time to have someone teach you.

Active learning has the potential to save you the time. Read the material before coming to class, so that you can come with questions that will be answered in an already reserved time slot. Having the notes printed out gives you the opportunity to physically interact with your notes and mentally process better them as a result, which means that you will know them better later. Doing these things will reduce the amount of time you need to study.

5. The Professors that Let You Record Their Lectures Are Your Best Friend

Why? Because you can play these lessons back in the car. This is especially helpful for the people who learn best by hearing things. Instead of listening to music, I will Bluetooth the voice recorded lectures as I drive to school so that I can hear it again one last time.

If your professor does not let you record his lectures, there are actually podcasts that exist for practically everything. This past summer I took Biology, and I found a podcast series called “MCAT Biology”. I couldn't believe that I found it when I did, but it definitely reinforces the idea that the Internet really does have everything these days.

6. Invest in a Slow Cooker

The last thing I want to do after a long day at school is come home and cook myself a meal. However, I also don’t want to go out and eat unhealthy fast food. That is why I am in love with my slow cooker. There’s a timer on it, so as I’m prepping breakfast in the morning, I can also throw all of my dinner in the slow cooker and set the timer. It cooks while I’m gone, the food stays warm, and as a result I can come home and just sit down for dinner. Best investment I’ve made in a while, and definitely a great way to end a long day.